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Home >> Opinion
UPDATED: 14:22, September 06, 2006
Creating modern Chinese cultural symbols
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Chinese restaurants named "Confucius" can be found in many cities across Europe and the US. A search for "Confucius restaurant" on Google results in up to 2,340 items related to the phrase, suggesting that there are many things that are Chinese that are related to this famous name.

Needless to say, Confucius is the most attractive symbol in Chinese traditional culture. But when a rapidly growing China is trying to build a new image and engage in greater interaction with the outside world, can "Confucius" still represent today's modern and thriving China? This needs to be taken into serious consideration.

It is reported that with increasing enthusiasm for learning the Chinese language, 30 million non-Chinese speakers are now learning Chinese around the world and over 30 universities in the US alone have opened Chinese courses. Without a doubt, the increase in enthusiasm for Chinese not only reflects the realization of the usefulness of understanding the Chinese language, but also a need for the world to understand China. Whereas previously, foreigners took an interest in old Chinese stories, this was only out of curiosity, whereas now they have a strong desire to understand modern China in order to get along with the Chinese people.

There are many Western curiosities about China, wanting to understand why the Chinese economy is growing so fast and how China can produce such tall NBA stars such as Yao Min. There is also a desire to understand why the foundation for basic education is so firm in China, how China has magic kung fu that enables climbing and walking on walls and the reason for such cheap commodities. There is also a certain amount of envy as well as anxiety and all such questions can be closely related to China's development although by no means be solved by the word "Confucius".

It is appropriate that foreigners are interested by China's past, conveyed by Chinese traditional cultural symbols that include: red lanterns, cheongsam, er-hu, makeup for Beijing Opera, spring rolls, sweet and sour pork ribs, acupuncture and lion dance. However the Chinese still have the responsibility of enabling foreigners to better understand modern China because of the possibility that China will become a world power in the 21st century. Therefore, the Chinese should promote China by finding a way to endow traditional Chinese cultural symbols with modern Chinese cultural symbols that are better representatives of modern China.

China is undergoing rapid development and experiencing a variety of new emerging trends. New "Chinese symbols" such as: Yao Ming, Liu Xiang and Zhang Ziyi, who all represent China's new era, have gained world recognition. However they will not become substitutes for Chinese traditional symbols characterized by "Confucius", but help to enrich traditional Chinese Culture as well as represent a flourishing modern China. The Chinese should find a way to make their traditional cultural symbols a better expression of modernity as well as a way of making better use of their new cultural symbols. In fact, the reason why there is so much global interest in China is that there is curiosity over how China develops into a modern country and what new modern Chinese cultural symbols will emerge.

By People's Daily Online


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